Deconstructing the Pipeline: Evaluating School-to-Prison Pipeline Equal Protection Cases through a Structural Racism Framework

By Smith, Chauncee D. | Fordham Urban Law Journal, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Deconstructing the Pipeline: Evaluating School-to-Prison Pipeline Equal Protection Cases through a Structural Racism Framework


Smith, Chauncee D., Fordham Urban Law Journal


"A man working in a munitions factory explains that he is not killing; he's just trying to get out a product. The same goes for the man who crates bombs in that factory. He's just packaging a product. He's not trying to kill anyone. So it goes until we come to the pilot who flies the plane that drops the bomb. Killing anyone? Certainly not, he's just pushing a button.... [Lastly] there is a Vietnamese peasant, dead, but not killed, you might say. The consequence is there, but born of a process so fragmented as not to register in the consciousness of those involved in it." (1)

Introduction

I.  Defining the School-to-Prison Pipeline
           A. Racial Inequities in the U.S. Education and Criminal
              Justice Systems
           B. Defining the School-to-Prison Pipeline

II.  Evaluating School-to-Prison Pipeline Equal Protection Cases:
       Motive-Centered Analysis vs. Structural Racism Analysis
           A. Motive-Centered Equal Protection Analysis
           B. Structural Racism Equal Protection Analysis

III. Deconstructing the School-to-Prison Pipeline
           A. The School-to-Prison Pipeline's Structural Dimensions
           B. The School-to-Prison Pipeline's Criminalizing Dimension
           C. The School-to-Prison Pipeline's Sorting Dimension
              1. The Pipeline's Macro-Sorting Dimension
              2. The Pipeline's Micro-Sorting Dimension
                 a. Racially Biased Standardized Testing
                 b. Racially Biased Educational Tracking
           D. The School-to-Prison Pipeline's Economic Dimension

IV. The School-to-Prison Pipeline in Praxis
           A. Factual Background: Williams v. California
           B. A Structural Racism Analysis of Williams v. California
              1. Pipeline Criminalizing Factors in California
              2. Pipeline Sorting Factors in California
              3. Pipeline Economic Policies in California
              4. The Convergence of Pipeline Factors in California

Conclusion

INTRODUCTION

The U.S. criminal justice and education systems wreak havoc upon today's minority population. (2) Among adults, minorities disproportionately bear the brunt of "tough-on-crime" (3) policies, such as mandatory sentencing, three strikes laws, and the death penalty. (4) For instance, thirty-two percent of black males and seventeen percent of Latino males are incarcerated during their lifetime, compared to just six percent of white males. (5) Further, despite only being thirteen percent of the national citizenry, blacks constitute forty-two percent of prisoners on death row. (6) Similarly, contemporary schools disproportionately punish minority students. (7) While blacks and Latinos each account for seventeen percent of U.S. K-12 enrollment, they respectively comprise thirty percent and twenty percent of all twelfth-grade suspensions and expulsions. (8) Before twelfth grade, "black students, compared to whites, are two to five times as likely to be suspended at a younger age." (9) In some states, more than thirty percent of the black student population is suspended each year. (10) This focus on punishing adult and youth minorities has blurred the pedagogical distinctions between America's education and criminal justice systems. Indeed, as students of color disparately transfer from schools to prisons, one can rightly say that America's education and criminal justice systems now bear a symbiotic relationship. (11)

This school-prison harmoniousness is illustrated by the life trajectory of students of color who are suspended or expelled. After being pushed out of school, students of color face daunting odds of being criminalized at virtually every juncture of the criminal justice system. In New York City, for example, eighty-five percent of all stop-and-frisk encounters are administered on blacks and Latinos. (12) National figures show that after being stopped, black youth account for thirty percent of all juvenile arrests, despite only being seventeen percent of the juvenile population. …

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